Gersthofen, Germany — In a project due for completion in 2021, renowned project partners representing industry and research will be developing digital tools and technologies to enable the integration and automation of services, processes and workflows along the value-creation chain in the construction industry. DigitalTWIN — Digital Tools and Workflow Integration for Building Lifecycles — focuses on a better understanding of systemic dependencies and interactions. This is why the partners involved have a wide range of backgrounds and come from very different industries and fields of activity.

As part of the Smart Service World II funding program, DigitalTWIN is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The central federal funding objectives are securing Germany as an efficient production and innovation center and expanding digital services for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The challenges of the construction sector are constantly changing responsibilities over the whole building life cycle, different international standards and regulations as well as constantly changing partners in design, fabrication and operation. DigitalTWIN’s aim is that an open-platform architecture, more advanced broadband communication systems and computer vision technologies should simplify planning, production and coordination with the building site and provide users with a reliable, flexible and upgradable communication and management infrastructure

Use cases and intended demos

After the official inaugural meeting in June 2018 with all participants, the market conditions, technologies and standards were analyzed and experiences of the different disciplines exchanged in further workshops. Based on these results, the consortium developed three Use Cases that address relevant issues and the interfaces between planning, production and building operation. The research fields refer to the following areas:

  • Use case 1 — Monitoring during building operation and maintenance support based on the example of supervised façade
  • Use case 2 — Quality assurance based on the example of welding work and a virtual welding inspection on the shop floor
  • Use case 3 — Assembly support with AR technology at the construction site using the example of a grid shell puzzle
Schematic view of Use Case 1. Image: © se commerce

Use Case 1 addresses the easy availability and visualization of live measured data at the building through the digital twin using edge cloud and cluster computing technologies. An innovative, multi-layered façade system ensures long-term, low-maintenance use. To offer the customer a maintenance service that is optimized and target-oriented, the conditions of the glass elements are continuously monitored. The acquisition of temperature, humidity and air pressure values also enables weather data to be recorded in detail for facility management. The shared use of measurement data by users, operators, product manufacturers and consultants is a typical use case for the development and management of a collaborative digital twin. This use case allows the development of the fundamental platform features (hardware connectivity, rights management, data safety and security), the integration of specific algorithmic analysis and the implementation of AR technologies (visualization using a 3D model, remote access for maintenance support). The hardware infrastructure required will be implemented based on existing technologies.

Schematic view of Use Case 2. Image: © se commerce

Use Case 2 includes a virtual welding inspection plus all documentation on the shop floor and the construction site in order to reduce the time during which inspectors must be present and achieve a continuous and effective workflow during the production and inspection of welded steel components. Inspections will be in the form of remote inspections of the welding seams using a precise digital twin.

Use Case 2: Virtual inspection of welded structures using a digital twin. Photo: © seele

All information relating to planned and actual geometry, base material, tools and machines used, settings as well as measurement and scan data are provided for better inspection and complete documentation. This Use Case also investigates the capabilities of new computer vision technologies for applications under difficult operating conditions performing demanding quality assurance tasks.

Schematic view of Use Case 2. Image: © se commerce

Use Case 3 addresses the issue of more effective and efficient installation using the digital tools as well as flexible and safe use in harsh site environments. The use of AR technology in safety goggles will enable users to find their way around the construction site. It will also provide additional information that is currently documented and communicated on drawings. A gridshell construction will be used to demonstrate a process chain from assembly planning and logistics to assembly support. Assembly personnel will be able to see installation sequences and identify and localize correct parts and tools. Furthermore, they can document various work steps, such as verifying the correct component position or correct tightening torques of bolts.